I dropped by Dixon City Hall late in the afternoon April 17, 2012, the day that federal authorities arrested longtime Comptroller Rita Crundwell. They announced she had stolen $30 million from city coffers (later adjusted to nearly $54 million).
I figured I'd interview city employees about their thoughts on the scandal. Other reporters were around, too.
None of the employees would talk, with some saying they weren't allowed to.
In one office sat Commissioner Dennis Considine; he had been talking with employees. He accused me of trying to stir things up.
I told him it was hard to put a good spin on the story. As we spoke, FBI agents were all around City Hall. In fact, they had barred the public from the second floor.
Considine is a passionate guy; it was an upsetting day. But he may not have realized his statement in the presence of employees probably sent an unintentional message: Keep quiet about this.
Most residents have taken great interest in the unfolding scandal. One can imagine how city employees must feel. While the bookkeeper made off with tens of millions of dollars, police officers, firefighters and street workers continued to work, often for far less pay than Crundwell officially received – about $80,000.
Do they have thoughts on what happened at City Hall for so long? Would they like to speak their piece?
I'll bet they would. But they have been quiet. They probably figure it would be better to stay silent than risk the wrath of higher-ups.
The other day, I interviewed residents in the Dixon Public Library about the city's $40 million settlement with its former auditors and bank.
I even approached a library employee for an interview. She declined, noting that she works for the city.
Maybe when city employees start retiring, they'll become more outspoken. Give me a call.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.